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Sustainable Weight Loss: It’s Possible and Not a Myth

Sustaining your weight can feel impossible sometimes, and there are many articles that imply that. For example, in 2016, the New York Times tracked down former participants of The Biggest Loser, a reality television show where contestants are pitted against each other in a battle to lose the most amount of weight in an extremely short amount of time. They weighed the contestants from the 2009 season, and nearly all of them weighed more than they were when they finished the show, six years later (only one contestant weighed less). Some even weighed more than when they started the show. You can read the article here.

What was even worse is that they tested the metabolism of the contestants, and their metabolism was lower than the expected metabolisms of a typical person their weight. Danny Cahill, the winner of the competition, had a metabolism that was a whopping 800 calories lower than a person his weight should have, suggesting that in order to maintain his weight, he would have to hold off eating an entire meal every single day compared to someone else at a similar weight. The article basically suggested that whatever they did on the show destroyed their metabolism, and that fighting obesity is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Danny Cahill - challenges of sustaining weight loss
Danny Cahill of The Biggest Loser – Season 8 (NBC)

Maintaining Your Weight Can Feel Impossible

Although a study of 14 individuals is rarely a sufficient data set, I won’t dispute the claims the article makes. It is a reminder that it’s important not to judge those who are struggling with weight loss. Different people absolutely have different metabolisms and it is harder for some to lose weight than for others.

I also regained a bit of weight after hitting my goals, gaining 25 pounds over the next year, partially because I wanted to build muscle, but also because I neglected the systems and no longer set weight goals for myself. Once I reimplemented my systems, I was able to get back on track. It’s not that easy for others. The truth is that losing weight is one thing, but repairing your feedback loop for permanent weight loss is another.

It’s easy to look at articles like these and feel like weight loss is an impossible challenge. I don’t deny that it can feel like this. The truth is, many people do fail to keep weight off. Here’s another example: When I applied for life insurance, you have to fill out a questionnaire about your general health. They ask you what your weight is, and also what your weight was a few years ago. They know that most people who lose weight will gain it back. To give themselves an accurate understanding of the risk they are taking on by insuring you, they use the larger weight you recorded to determine the rate they will provide you.

Another brutal statistic that you can find regularly cited by articles on the internet and even by some health professionals: 95%-98% (the number often changes depending on the article) of people who lose weight regain it back.

However, Sustainable Weight Loss Is Possible

However, here are some different facts that are just as true. Countless numbers of people have lost weight and kept it off. The 95% statistic above was from a single study done in 1959 with 100 people, so to project it onto the entire world is ridiculous. The NYT article above discusses the metabolism losses of 14 people on a TV show, not people in real life. These people are basically immensely pressured into losing immense amounts of weight in a short amount of time. They then project and relate this situation that would never happen in real life to the situations of the millions of people out there who want to lose weight. Drastic weight loss is unsafe and should be done in a much more reasonable, sustainable fashion.

Furthermore, the article only gives a small blurb about Erinn Egbert, one of the applicants who managed to keep the weight off. The article shows its bias and doesn’t elaborate on the many other contestants on the show that have been able to keep the weight off since the television show. Even in the article itself, there are hundreds of comments from people who criticize the article. These people are real people that have been able to lose weight and keep it off. I am just one of a few.

Pictures of Erinn Egbert, before and after.

It is absolutely possible to lose weight and keep it off. It will take work, and it will be a journey that for some, will require vigilance. It’s important to change the perspective about weight maintenance being a perpetual slog, however, and this is an important mentality shift. It’s work that provides the continuous reward of good health, a lean body, increased energy, and elongates life. Remember that if you have done something once, generally you can do it again. If you’ve reached your goals, even if you ever gain it back, remember that you have proven to yourself in the past that you have it in you to succeed.

Some Tips To Help You Sustain Weight Loss

So how does one sustain their weight? Here are some tips:

Keep tracking.

Part of why I created Luuze was I wanted a tool that would let me sustain my weight for life, but with as little hassle as possible. For many, regular accountability can ensure you maintain a certain weight range. Tracking your weight ensures that you don’t have creeping normality come and cause you to sneakily regain weight.

Set simple rules.

Determine what weight range you’d like to maintain and set some rules on what you will need to do if you go over or under that weight. Luuze can help you do this by setting your goal to maintain mode and using limit lines.

Lock in that Defining Motivation, or create a new one.

Why did you want to lose weight in the first place? This is your Defining Motivation. The reason to maintain your weight should be the same. Keep high visibility of this fact and keep it in your day-to-day memory.

Set New Goals.

I remember in my 20s, I succeeded in losing 60 pounds. One of my goals was to ride the Tour de l’Alberta century bike ride (where you bike 100 miles in a day). I put in hundreds of hours of training over the span of a year and shed a lot of weight. However, once the ride was over, the goal was done, I went back to old habits, and I started to regain the weight. Unfortunately, the only way there can be permanent weight loss is if there is a permanent lifestyle change.

If you’ve lost weight because you had a goal you wanted to achieve, don’t just go back to your old ways once you’ve achieved your goal. Create a new, more challenging goal that keeps you moving forward.

Stay vigilant and remember that health is paramount.

Health matters, maybe more than anything. Remembering this is important. At least for me, weight management is a continuous journey, and if I stop thinking about my Defining Motivation, stop tracking my weight, or don’t set goals for myself, I can easily regain the weight, which for me, will mean that my blood pressure will go back up and my risk of a heart attack will go up. Doing these things constantly may sound like hard work, but tools like Luuze make it easier for me to stay on track. The work that it takes to continuously weigh a level that is healthy is absolutely worth the benefits it brings.

Weight Loss Is a Marathon, Sustainable Weight Loss is Being a Marathoner

When you hit the weight that you are happy with, the work is not done. This might sound demoralizing but this is just like anything in life. If you trained for a marathon then stopped exercising, why would you expect to be able to run a marathon again 6 months later? Imagine you worked hard and got promoted at work. Are you allowed to slack off now? If you stopped performing, you’d get fired, and rightfully so. You shouldn’t expect to maintain your new weight without doing some work. If you go back to your old ways, you will regain the weight. I don’t say this to demotivate you, but it is very important to understand that you aren’t done.

Extending the marathon analogy, people who can run marathons on a regular basis generally love running. They will suffer and encounter stress during points in the training. The point where a marathoner “hits the wall” is generally something that causes a lot of anguish. But they don’t just love finishing the marathon, they love the lifestyle of a marathoner. They are happy to live the life of a runner, blisters, injuries, and all the rest. This is why selecting a sustainable method of weight loss is important.

Sustainable Weight Loss Is Not Just a Goal Then You’re Done

If you are successful at losing weight but hate yourself, hate the suffering, and hate the process throughout the entire weight loss journey, sustaining your weight once you’ve hit your weight loss goal is going to be tough. If you build your weight loss method into a lifestyle that you love, the love will overcome any anguish or stress that may occasionally come when you need to resist those extra calories. It’s important to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. In fact, for all humans, you reach your destination when you’re dead. The journey is your life. Finally, extending the marathon analogy again, the first marathon you run is tough, but the second one is easier. Maintaining weight is easier than losing weight, and you’ve proven to yourself that you were able to lose those pounds. You absolutely have it in you to keep them off.

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